A few months ago, I received a message from a fellow food admirer. She explained to me that she had found herself in a serious predicament: upon which New York restaurant should she bestow her "best pizza" award? In her list of contenders, she mentioned the name "Motorino." My interest was immediately peaked, and I decided to check it out.
The East Village Motorino -- it also has a Brooklyn location -- beckons you in. Located at 349 East 12th Street, the small restaurant features dim, warm lighting, big glass windows, and a constant din of laughter and clanking silverware that create an intimate, but fun atmosphere. Motorino is no nonsense. The tables are simple, the service is good and directed, and the menu is small. It features about five "antipasti" (Italian appetizers), eight varieties of pizza, two desserts and a long list of beverages.
Motorino describes itself as a "Pizzeria Napoletana" (Neapolitan Pizzeria). Having just been to Naples a mere month ago, I was eager to see whether Motorino actually managed to capture the unique taste of Naples in the city of New York. Guess what! It did.
We started with the "polpette napoletane" (Neapolitan meatballs) and the Cockle Clam Crostino "Al Bianco". Both antipasti were remarkable. The portion of piping-hot polpette was generous (three nice-sized meatballs), and the polpette themselves were seasoned well and covered in a delicious, fresh tomato sauce. They tasted exactly like the ones I had had a month before, sitting at a small cafe in the corner of a large square in Naples. The Crostino was equally, if not more, delicious. The dish was presented beautifully, and the flavors melded together even better. The crostino was soaked in butter, white wine, oregano and chili, and the small clams were garnished with whole oregano leaves. I highly recommend both these dishes.
Motorino serves individual pizzas, which is something I personally love, considering I have such a big appetite. Between the three of us, we chose the Soppressata piccante (tomato, spicy soppressata sausage, mozzarella, garlic, and oregano), the classic Margherita with clams (added on for a few dollars -- do it!!!), and the special pizza, which had ramps, pecorino, and tomato.
It is safe to say were were over the moon about all three. The pairing of ramps (currently in season) with pecorino was surprising but delicious. The baby clams on the typical Margherita made for a tasty, novel creation. The soppressata pizza was a flavor-overload. The whole cloves of garlic were fantastic, and the soppressata was crispy and plentiful (it was extremely spicy, however, so if you can't handle heat I'd steer clear of this one.)
But what sets Motorino pizza apart is the juxtaposition between the soupiness of the pizza and its fluffy, yet crispy and slightly-charred crust. The pizza requires some slurping, and don't be shy about using lots of napkins. I highly suggest saving some crust to sop up all the delicious sauce left on your plate.
Our meal was well-priced. For two generous appetizers and three pizzas, each of the three of us payed less than $25 per person.
Go to Motorino. Molto bene.